A few weeks ago I shared from the prophet Zephaniah about God singing over his people. The love and joy and delight God has for us is extraordinary and is something we must rejoice in. This truth, this reality of God’s love to us in Christ ought to cause us to rest in him, for in him we are utterly secure. Prior to this declaration of God singing over his people is a call for them to sing and rejoice and exult in the Lord.
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.”Zephaniah 3:14–16 ESV
Zephaniah speaks of “that day”—that day when the LORD, the King of Israel comes and fulfills all his promises for his people. Two things happen immediately when the Lord comes. First, all judgments against his people are taken away. Any guilt, any discipline brought against them is removed. Second, he clears away all enemies. When the King of Israel reigns directly over his people—notice that Zephaniah does not mention a Davidic king here; the LORD God is the Davidic king!—all sin and suffering will be gone.
Zephaniah goes on to proclaim an incredible promise that should fill us with hope for the future. That promise will be fulfilled when he returns.
“Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the LORD.Zephaniah 3:19–21 ESV
He refers to “that time” again, that time when God himself reigns on earth. This happens when the Lord Jesus comes again and defeats all his enemies and recreates the heavens and the earth and then dwells on earth with his people forever. (See Revelation 21:1–3!) Notice closely what he says of that day: God will deal with all your oppressors. All the pain and suffering that has been inflicted on you, whether you were cheated in a business deal or abused and neglected or harassed and despised, picked on and bullied, all your suffering will be dealt with, as will those who caused it. This is a promise of final and true justice, the very thing each one of us longs for!
He says God will save the lame and gather the outcast. Those with physical defects were prevented by the law of Moses from entering into the Lord’s presence in the assembly, yet here God promises that he will save the lame and will gather the outcast, those who were are the fringe for whatever reason. This fits well with God’s promise through the prophet Micah:
In that day, declares the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.Micah 4:6–7 ESV
Whatever struggles we face, whether physical ailments or emotional pain or guilt from sins we’ve committed or shame from sins committed against us, one day those problems will be eliminated. The wrongs will be righted. True justice will be here. The world we’ve all longed for will have arrived. That day comes when our Lord himself comes. He is the one who ends our struggle. He is the one who ends our pain and anguish. He is the one we long for.
We ought to find comfort in this. Knowing that this day will come enables us to face what today brings, even if today brings suffering. Many, however, do not have this knowledge. They may have a vague awareness that followers of Jesus look forward to his return, but they wake up each day with no real knowledge of the future and they go to bed at night with no real hope for the future. While Zephaniah’s prophecy was largely focused on coming judgment, he closes his short book with these words of hope, for our God rescues the lame and the outcast. He casts off oppressors and he overturns all the bad things in this world. He promises that when he gathers his people together, he will restore their fortunes. As Sally Lloyd-Jones put it in her “The Jesus Storybook Bible,”
God loved his children too much to let the story end there. Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan—a magnificent dream. One day, he would get his children back. One day, he would make the world their perfect home again. And one day, he would wipe away every tear from their eyes.Sally Lloyd-Jones, “The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name”
You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children—with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.
Before they left the garden, God whispered to Adam and Eve: “It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake. I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you!”
And he would. One day, God himself would come.
As we spend time in prayer today, let us thank God for the hope he offers us in Christ. He promises to make all the wrongs right and to usher in true peace and true justice when he comes to recreate the world and live on earth with his people forever. Let us also pray for those who do not know him. Pray that we would find opportunities to share the hope we have in Christ with those who currently have none. Let’s pray for our missionaries. Pray for Kizombo and Wababili in Congo. Pray for Jonathan and Noella in Italy. Pray that all of us would be faithful to proclaim the good news of Jesus, news of his victory over the snake, over sin and death. And let’s pray for Jesus to come quickly.